Updated: May 17, 2021
Times they are a-changin', as Bob Dylan wrote, and we will all have different feelings about emerging from lockdown. For some of us it might be a relief, an opportunity to spend time indoors with family and friends, to hug and be close. Others might feel apprehensive and unsure about how to return to the busyness of life.
I had an experience of change recently that made me think about how I respond to things happening unexpectedly. In a previous blog I wrote about the woods close to my home which have become a refuge and safe haven during lockdown. For me, those woods are now a place where I go when I need space to be with my feelings or to think or just be.
I arrived one morning to find that some work had been carried out on the area. Some trees were cut down, weed killer had been used to widen the paths and lots of the undergrowth had been hacked back. It had changed, almost overnight, and I felt shocked, sad and angry. It felt as if my special place had been desecrated. I wasn’t prepared for this change and it shook me.
This might be how some of us will feel as we “get back to normal” and leave our safe spaces. Our usual routines, work situations, relationships might not be quite how we left them. Being locked down for months will have changed us and undoubtably those around us too. We might feel as if things are very different to how they were back in 2019.
So how do we navigate this? How do we prepare ourselves for change when we know it’s coming? How do we take care of ourselves when change happens unexpectedly?
We can practice self-compassion. This means treating ourselves gently, with empathy and understanding. Mindfully noticing and acknowledging our feelings about change, especially the difficult ones. Recognising that our feelings and experiences are valid and part of being a human being, meaning that we are not isolated and alone. We might think about how we would treat a friend or loved one experiencing something similar. What words of comfort might you bring to them, and can you give them to yourself?
We can take a pause. This might be for a moment or an hour, but it gives us the opportunity to check in with ourselves and to notice what we are feeling and what might be underneath that feeling. This then gives us the ability to choose how we will respond. Tara Brach speaks about what she calls ‘The Sacred Pause’ here.
We can slow down. It might be tempting to rush ahead and think about the future or jump back in to all the things we did pre-lockdown. Take things slowly. Use this opportunity to evaluate what is important to you and what is not. It might be that lockdown has shown you that certain activities or relationships are no longer healthy for you, it is ok to do things differently.
My recent experience of change in the woods allowed me to practice these things. I was able to notice and attend to my feelings of shock, sadness and anger, feelings that anyone might have when a place of natural beauty appears to have been destroyed . I allowed myself to pause before rushing into writing a furious letter to the local council and just be with my feelings, this meant that I could work out exactly what was going on for me and bring myself the comfort I needed. Now, a few weeks later after lots of rain and some sunshine, I am noticing new plants springing up and nature is doing what it does best – growing and changing. As we step back towards life with less restrictions we can also apply self compassion, taking a pause and slowing things down to our everyday experiences, especially if we begin to feel overwhelmed. Could it be that change might lead to growth within ourselves too?